Friday, November 14, 2014

Retrospective: Out at Home

I'm really annoyed with this one, so it might be briefer than the others.  Not the comic, the comic was fine and I'll get into that, but the website.  For some reason, just as I'm ready to sit down to write this, the website is MIA.  DNS errors and all that.  Gone.  So I'm doing a retrospective on a finished but GONE comic.  I suspect it will be back soon (I was hoping before I actually needed to write this, alas not to be), but for the moment it is gone.  That annoys me because I use it for reference when I write these things.

Not that I really NEED it, but it is nice to have.  And I've used a lot of all caps today, I'll try to avoid that from now on.

Out at Home wasn't a great comic, but nor was it awful.  I don't like writing this without the comic for reference, but I liked it well enough over the length of the run.  It's odd because I don't think I've read another webcomic quite like it.

Let me set it up for you:  Herman, ex-baseball superstar and richer than god, attempts to raise his two children after their mother left them.  The daughter is in her late teens, the son is nerdy pre-teen.  Wacky things happen because Herman is rich.

That sounds familiar, doesn't it?  I can't think of a webcomic that's done something like that though, but I can think of more than a few sitcoms that have.  And that's part of what stands out for me with this comic, it's a sitcom.  I'd expect something like this to show up on NBC or something.  The last few stories are especially like sitcom episodes.  One has Herman having to retake drivers ed, Kate (the daughter) using a complex scheme to insure she graduates from high school and the entire graduation plot where Herman is part of her graduating class (he dropped out to become a baseball superstar).  These are plots ripped right out of the TV Guide.

And I think it's part of the reason the comic ended.  Yes, the artist claimed it was because he (I think he) was scrapping the bottom of the barrel for stories, but I think he only felt like he was doing that.  Sitcom plots get really old if you've watched a lot of them (and many of us did growing up, I fear for those who grew up on reality TV).  He felt like he was retreading old ground, which he kind of was, but in a new environment, the webcomic.  Once that started happening, he desperately tried to find a way out, which slowed the comic down and eventually ended it.  I don't blame him.

That said, he did have one out:  Penny.  Kate's best friend started as just another friend character (from what I can remember, damn the site for being down) who happened to be smarter than Kate.  Then smarter than everyone else.  Then smart enough to realize she was in a comic.  It wasn't that she was breaking the fourth wall, I don't recall her ever talking to the reader, but she knew it was there and actively played with it.  It wasn't something where the character is hinted at knowing there's a fourth wall either, it was clear she knew, and her actions and character after that discovery are all dictated by that knowledge.

And yet she continued to play the normal role she was expected to play:  the best friend.  Her knowledge may have directed her character growth and development, but it didn't make her into a cynic about her role in the story, she played it straight, right up until the end, when she forced the artist to do something with the comic.

I haven't read much of Living to Death (the quasi-sequel comic) yet, but I suspect that eventually Penny (who along with Kate is back for the comic) will eventually acknowledge that yes, she is still very aware of the world she lives in, if she hasn't already.  I doubt, however, it will effect the comic in any significant way.  I think this one character will make Out at Home stick with me longer than other comics because of this.

Hopefully the links to Out at Home will be fixed soon so that others can read the comic, but for now, it was a decent enough comic with some interesting ideas, and I hope Living to Death will exceed it.

Until next time kiddies when I do, um, something, I hope.

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